InterruptionsWe know that focus gets results; but it is hard to focus when your attention span is under attack. It has been estimated that about 13 million adults in the US have ADHD, and I would guess that almost everyone has an attention problem. With the amount of information doubling every few years, and along with it the communication devices such as iPhone’s, iPads, smart phones and laptops, it is no wonder.
Technology isn’t necessarily responsible for the increasing inability to focus on a task and sustain attention, but it certainly exasperates the problem.
Our brain has a built-in radar system that alerts us to any imminent danger so we can react accordingly. This might have been useful 1000 years ago (and still is, on occasion) when predators could be lurking behind every bush. But in modern times it causes the constant interruptions and fragments our day — decreasing both our efficiency and effectiveness.
We may not be able to disable the radar; but we can certainly control the environment so our alarm system isn’t activated as frequently.
In the “old days” we simply scheduled quiet hours throughout the day — times when we could work on our important projects undisturbed. It was relatively simple to engage the voicemail on a landline, close the office door, and tell a secretary or staff member that you didn’t want to be disturbed. And there was always the solitude of after-hours.
With the advancement of technology and the streamlining of offices, we no longer have “after-hours” because the office follows us home — disguised as a smart phone that we dare not turn off for fear of missing something important. And private offices are rare, there are no doors to close, and no secretary or staff member to serve as gatekeeper.
Add e-mail, text messages, the Internet, social media, and the escalating number of distractions, and no wonder our working hours have increased and our priorities are delayed.
It’s time to develop some personal policies, add structure to our days, and regain control of our time. The policies might include not checking e-mail until 10 AM, putting your cell phone on mute when working on priority tasks, engaging social media on only two days per week, turning off your laptop at 8 PM, reserving Monday mornings for creativity and planning, scheduling appointments with yourself to work on goal related activities, and so on.
Policies are guidelines, not hard and fast rules, and as such might sometimes have to be broken. But it’s the first step in not only improving your performance, but in recognizing that technology is for your use — and not the other way around.